David Irving, the controversial historian helping the Sunday Times with a serialisation of the diaries of Joseph Goebbels, returned to Britain from Moscow yesterday and attended a seminar organised to question the facts of the Holocaust.
Angry demonstrators waving slogans such as 'Stop Hitler-Lover Irving Now' and 'Gas Irving Now' besieged the meeting at International Students House, Portland Street, London. Scuffles broke out with police and five demonstrators were arrested.
After the meeting, Mr Irving blamed the controversy on rival historians jealous of his latest coup and reiterated to reporters his view that Auschwitz 'was undoubtedly a brutal slave labour camp but it wasn't a factory of death. The gas chambers were a figment of British propaganda.'
As disclosed last week by The Independent, Mr Irving had been in Moscow on behalf of the Sunday Times preparing a translation of what is thought to be the only complete version of the diaries of Hitler's propaganda minister. He has been criticised as an unsuitable person to handle such material and the Sunday Times, which is paying him a six-figure sum, has been criticised for employing him.
According to a man at yesterday's meeting, who did not wish to be named, Mr Irving told his audience that he had experienced a tremendous feeling being the first person to read the diaries. He had seen something that had made him revise some of his thinking, but he could not give any details because of his contract with the Sunday Times.
Later, he strongly denied suggestions that he might translate the diaries in a way that suited his politicial views. 'Anybody who suggests that is being grossly defamatory, with all that that implies,' he said.
'The Sunday Times has already received from me large sections of the diaries already translated and nobody has any basis for that allegation.'
The diaries, he added, were 'the biggest historical find in 20 years and all my rivals are swooning with rage. It is the innermost workings of Hitler's deliberations. He's taken this man into his confidence at every stage.'
The serialisation of the diaries is due to begin next week. Yesterday The Independent on Sunday asked the editor of the Sunday Times, Andrew Neil, about the claims of a Swiss citizen, Francois Genoud, to copyright over Goebbels's writings. Mr Genoud is an admirer of Hitler and is associated with Nazi causes.
Mr Neil said that if Mr Irving and Mr Genoud had reached any arrangement over Mr Irving's intended book on Goebbels, that was Mr Irving's affair. But the paper had not dealt and would not deal with Mr Genoud and would never pay him money. Mr Genoud may have had a past in the Nazi party: 'We're not talking about an amateur Nazi like Irving here,' said Mr Neil.
Mr Irving, on his arrival from Moscow, was taken from the Aeroflot plane by police and escorted from the airport through a side exit, avoiding the arrivals hall. He headed for central London and was later seen by a policeman carrying two suitcases and walking up Portland Street towards the crowd of demonstrators. 'I'm David Irving and I'm late for a meeting,' he said. Fearing for his safety, the police escorted him to his meeting through a back entrance.
A leaflet advertising the seminar said it was organised by a group of students of Second World War history to 'consider the Holocaust'.
The leaflet stated: 'As a result of Jewish media control, most Britons are unaware that in recent years a growing number of 'Revisionist' historians . . . have formed the opinion that while anti-Jewish atrocities were perpetuated by the Germans during the war, the core 'Holocaust' story that six million Jews were systematically exterminated in gas chambers and then incinerated in ovens, cannot be sustained . . .'
Sources inside the seminar said Mr Irving received a rapturous welcome and spoke out for free speech, saying he would never give in to repression.
The demonstrators discovered the venue for yesterday's seminar by following guests from a rendezvous at a West End hotel. The guests had been vetted by the British National Party, which was thought to have helped to organise the meeting.
The demonstration had been arranged in protest at the seminar, but some of the anger was directed at Mr Neil. The organisers, the Campaign Against Fascism in Europe, described Mr Irving as 'probably the world's leading apologist for Hitler' and said he was regarded by open fascists throughout Europe as 'the Fuhrer'. A leaflet handed to passers-by said: 'His ideas are being enormously boosted by Andrew Neil, who is either an absolute idiotic donkey or only interested in his circulation figures'.
Copyright claim, page 13
Irving the historian, page 24
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